Numerous Questions Pepper Town Meeting Day Ballots
Many Vermont communities will decide issues through Australian ballot rather than floor discussion and voice votes on Town Meeting Day Tuesday due to the pandemic. This year questions range from land purchase approvals to cannabis sales.
Most communities in Vermont will accept or reject their school budgets on Town Meeting Day. In Burlington voters are being asked to approve a $95.1 million school budget. Burlington School District Senior Finance Director Nathan Lavery outlines the proposed fiscal plan. “One of the things that the budget incorporates is a significant number of operational reductions, items that are not anticipated to have any programmatic impact on student learning but are ways that we could reduce costs to taxpayers. We also made a few modest increases to the budget including adding some money to support communications with our multi-lingual families and also some money to support implementation of our new strategic plan in the coming year.”
Every year the Burlington City Council holds an informational session to review all ballot questions put before voters. In addition to the school budget there are six ballot questions. One of the proposals would give the city authority to regulate thermal energy systems in commercial and residential buildings. East District Progressive Jack Hanson says it includes the ability to assess a carbon impact fee. “However any sort of carbon impact fee would have to go before the voters of Burlington at a city-wide election before being enacted. Other policies to regulate thermal energy could be created under this charter change.”
Burlington voters are also being asked if they want to change to a Ranked Choice Voting system for city council elections. Councilor Hanson said it would alter the current system in several ways. “One is the ability of voters to rank. Two is the threshold of victory changing from 40 percent to 50 percent. And then the third change is that instead of a separate runoff election in the case of a runoff there’s an immediate runoff that takes place and is calculated under this system.”
Question 5 on the Burlington ballot asks voters if the city council should be able to amend laws regarding termination of residential leases. Ward 3 Progressive Brian Pine said the intent is to assure that a landlord proves there is a good reason for eviction. “Essentially what this proposal proposes to accomplish is that to terminate a tenancy a rental property owner would have to have a just cause and just causes are to include but not be limited to a material breach of a written rental agreement by the tenant, nonpayment of rent.”
When the Vermont legislature passed legislation legalizing cannabis products last fall it included a provision that allows communities to opt in or out of retail cannabis sales. Ward 4 Democrat Sarah Carpenter explained that one of the ballot questions asks voters if the city should opt in. “This would not be implemented until October of 2022. If this is adopted the city will develop a cannabis control board and will develop ordinances.”
Voters in Town of Essex will decide whether to accept a plan to merge with the village of Essex Junction.
Shelburne residents are being asked to approve the purchase of land to build a new fire and rescue station or other such municipal purpose.
The Barre City ballot includes a question asking voters if the city should “only fly the City, State, United States and the MIA/POW flags.”
In Rutland incumbent Republican Mayor David Allaire, seeking his third term, faces six opponents. Six seats on the Board of Aldermen have drawn seventeen candidates.